Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lent: Glorious Wednesdays

On Wednesdays we say the Glorious Mysteries. The first of these is the Resurrection. Here is my reflection...

Last night I watched the Incredibles with my children. Okay, okay, I'll admit, Andrew and I enjoy this movie too. Like us, society is fascinated with superheroes. Having superpowers probably ranks at the top of the list when children (or even adults) are asked what they'd wish for themselves. As a society, we idolize those who seem to possess superpowers. Just yesterday morning, I heard a story of a 15 year old boy lifting a car off his grandfather. I also heard, later in the day, the story of a rescued cat saving its new owner's life. The commentators said they got goosebumps from these tremendous stories.

As I began reflection on today's mystery, I saw how much more awesome and all-powerful is our God than any superhero imagined. Then, I was saddened to realize that society seems to have rejected God. I don't know why since God has more going for him than any superhero. God has rescued us from evil, just like superheroes do. Except, God rescued us from evil for ALL eternity. Mr. Incredible laments in the beginning of the movie that he wished the world would just stay saved from time to time. That is not being saved from evil for eternity... God sent only His Son to pay for our sins. ONCE, not time and time again. However, that wasn't the end of God's superhero deeds, though. Instead, He also raised His Son from the dead three days after His horrific death.

The Resurrection was witnessed by an incredible number of people across a wide geographic and time period. Christ's body wasn't simply visible, like a ghost. No, God's superhero skills far exceeded a mere specter. Jesus's resurrected body could be felt, as Thomas was asked to do to cure his unbelief. When it was time to eat, the resurrected Jesus consumed food and drink, just as everyone else did. Take that Death!

So with this short discussion of God's superpowers*, I come to the crux of the matter. Why don't more people behave as if God IS a superhero? Where is the mass adulation that God so righteously deserves -- especially since superheroes are make-believe, but God is real? I think it is because the fruit of this mystery, Faith, is not engendered into the hearts and souls of many in society. You see, Faith requires more than blind adoration. It requires obedience, humility, strength, steadfastness, and purity. In other words, it requires work. Paul tells us that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:17). Society today (man, that makes me feel old to write), well probably forever since the Apostles had to speak of it, wants to be free to act without consequences and to reap the rewards of faithfulness without the work of being faithful.

Basically, society is all gimme and no give. It is up to us, Faithful Catholics and Christians, to truly live our faith. We are called to worship our God and call attention to His awesomeness by how we behave and speak, as well as our beliefs. Can we don our superhero costumes, whether it is a veil in the presence of the Eucharist, our best clothing for Mass, or a smile in the face of suffering? I'm trying, are you?

* I enjoyed this thought process so much that I wrote way more than was necessary for this Mystery. I will definitely revisit God's superhero traits at a later date. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lent: Sorrowful Tuesdays

Lent: Sorrowful Tuesday

This is the second installment of my Lenten series on the Mysteries of the Rosary.

On Tuesdays we pray the Sorrowful Mysteries. The first of these is the Agony in the Garden. Sorrow for sin is the fruit of this Mystery. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why. Jesus was sinless. Yet, He willingly took our sins upon Himself out of love for His people. Luke (22:44) tells us, "In His anguish He prayed with all the greater intensity, and His sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground." Medically speaking, (Luke was a doctor in his day) to sweat blood is not only possible, but also caused the skin to be more sensitive to pain. A terrible condition for one in Christ's position.

Jesus's anguish was so strong that He sweat blood; and then He returned to His most loved disciples, they were asleep. So not only did He know He was to be betrayed by Judas (whom Satan had already claimed -- Luke 22:2), His closest friends could not keep watch and pray with Him. Some have inferred that they were under the influence of the devil. The devil is a real participant in the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ. It is the devil that gives human nature the desire to take the easy road, just as Christ asked for this cup to pass. Jesus was well aware of Satan's influence, shortly before the Last Supper refers to Simon Peter as Satan for tempting Him to avoid His fate (Mark 8:33). Jesus was very familiar with Satan and his works, and for that He suffered greatly.

Jesus was fully God, but also fully man. His Divine nature knew what would happen. His human nature was, just like ours, weak and wished for "this cup to pass". He took upon His body immense suffering for us. His anguish was not simply that He knew the cruelty of His fate; it was compounded by knowing we would repeatedly disregard His great sacrifice in our selfishness.

As a Catholic, one of the greatest mysteries of the Faith is that Christ's sacrifice is inexplicably tied to the sacrifice of the Mass. During the Consecration, the veil between past, present, and future is lifted. At every Mass, we join in Christ's sacrifice. It is not a recreation or a re-living of the crucifixion of our Lord, it IS that ultimate sacrifice. That means that during the Confeitor, our sins are added as blows to Christ's vulnerable body, for Him to expiate. That is why, if we are truly sorry for our venial sins (whether proclaimed aloud or not), we leave Mass cleansed of them. Jesus wasn't sorry for His sins; He had none. He was sorry for our sins. Now it is up to us, to be sorry for them just a fraction as much as Christ was.

Lent: Joyful Mondays

For Lent I am going to focus on the Mysteries of the Rosary. I plan to present one mystery each weekday until I get to the end. I will do them, hopefully, in the appropriate order on the appropriate day of the week. If I feel called to write out of order, I will give the reasons why. Here's the first installment.

The first Joyful Mystery is the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel greets Mary by saying what became the beginning of the most repeated prayer in the Rosary, the Hail Mary. Mary's response was also made into a oft-repeated prayer, the Magnificat. Mary knew nothing except that this strange and wondrous figure suddenly appeared to her. Many stories of this mystery focus on Mary's youth, especially compared to today's women-girls. However, I think the most important thing in this mystery is that Mary was strong. She cower away from neither the awesome presence before her, nor his unbelievable message. Instead, she asked pertinent questions in a very respectful tone. At Gabriel's answer that God would overshadow her and she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, again, Mary doesn't cower. She boldly says, "Let it be done to me according to your words" Those words aren't fearful, although if I were Mary I'd have been terrified.

God's choice of Mary happened prior to her birth, at her conception. Throughout her life, of which we know little, God prepared Mary for this difficult task. However, Mary didn't know that. She just knew she was betrothed to a man, but had not yet been with him. Now suddenly she was being told by a magnificent figure that an inconceivable (I couldn't resist the pun) action was going to take place. Mary espoused a strength of Faith that God would take care of her that we should all strive to imitate.

As I said my Rosary this morning, I did not use the app on my phone that tells me the fruits of the mysteries as I usually do. Instead, I thought to myself, "This was easy, the fruit was obviously obedience to the Lord or at the very least His power over us." Let's think about it, yes, Mary was very obedient. She said "Yes" to God's overwhelming plan for her. God's power in this moment is also very obvious. After all, Mary had no intimate knowledge of a man. Yet, she was suddenly pregnant.

I was wrong about the fruit for this mystery though. According to the app, the fruit is humility. Where does humility come into play? In order to be obedient, humility is not required, but it is useful. God's power also obviously should make us humble. After all, none of us can accomplish the wonders He has wrought. However, I don't think it is necessarily her humility in obeying God or humility in the face of God's power that marks humility as this Mystery's fruit, but also her strength of character that allowed her to humbly serve the Lord in such a profound way.

Believe it or not, it takes strength to practice humility. A strong person (usually seen as successful in the world) can easily take pride (the vice of the virtue humility) in their works. That is the easy way to deal with God's blessing, ignore His hands at work and claim the products for yourself. A truly strong and humble person will always do as Mary said in her Magnificat, "magnify the Lord" through all their feats of 'strength'.

How often do we stop to think about God's choice for us? In these days, abortion takes the lives of millions of babies that had God-given effects to make on our world. Sadly, they will never see the light of day. These children's mothers did not think to consider God's plan for themselves or their unborn children. Instead they focus on the world's portrayal of strength, which is bereft of humility. The world considers these women strong for "standing up" and exercising their "rights" to "their bodies". A strong woman, these days, only places her unborn child ahead of her own needs if convenient. If not, there is a way to erase the consequences of their actions, by blotting out the "clump of cells" within their womb. The men and woman who oppose this "right" are portrayed as archaic, religious fanatics, and/or ignorant of the "freedom" of consequence-less sex.

What the world doesn't understand is that true freedom does not destroy in order to build others. As Peter Parker's grandfather says in SpiderMan, "with great strength comes great responsibility." True strength remains humble to the responsibilities for each action.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Obama, Let Us Be Catholics!

Every Catholic and/or Christian should listen to this. Right now not only is the Catholic Church under attack with the health care fiasco, all Christian beliefs are in danger from the Obama administration. This priest makes a very good point, the Catholic Church is the top ranked institution for helping the poor and disadvantaged, as it always has been, but that isn't good enough. Why is "reproductive freedom" more important than helping those in need??



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

Sunday (February 19, 2012), we heard from the Gospel the story of the paralytic who's faith (and that of his friends) allowed him to be healed. However, without the hard work of carrying the man through the crowds, lifting it to the roof, tearing a hole in the roof, and lowering the litter, the man would never have been healed. This hard work equates to sacrifices during Lent (and all year), confession of sins (to a priest), performance of penance (assigned by the priest), and resolution to sin no more. Each task can seem too difficult to begin much less sustain. God knew of our human proclivity to sin, so He sent His Son to institute the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Christ did this by giving His disciples the power to forgive sins if the sinner but asked forgiveness. In this Sacrament, we join hands with the Eternal Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit, to rise from our sins and suffering to experience life everlasting.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. We are marked with ashes to give witness to our unity in causing Christ's wounds. The ashes we receive remind me of the children's song, Ring Around the Rosie. The verse "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down" reminds me that we are all marked with ashes and we all fall down on our commitment to God. On this day, we are marked with ashes as a sign of our soul's stains of sin. Even as we are marked, we are able to see that we are all stained. We can take comfort in knowing that we all fall down and sin. By marking ourselves with the sign of our sins on this day, we call to mind Peter's exhortation to "do penance" for the sake of our salvation. Penance should not be looked at as punishment, but as an offering to God. God can use our sorrows, sufferings, and failings, if we repent, to care for our afflicted Lord in His time of need. At one point in Mark's gospel, Christ declares that some evil is able to be expelled "by nothing other than prayer and fasting". What is prayer and fasting but penance for our sins? How can we better serve our Lord than obeying His commands with humility?

Lent is a time to rejoice that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son. The Son died a horrific death so that we may experience wondrous life everlasting. Christ said "whosoever believes in Me has eternal life", but He also exhorted many of those He healed to "go and sin no more" after He told them "your sins are forgiven". Scripture's words about salvation are often stretched to indicate that faith alone cures us of our sins. In reality, our sins are the cause of Christ's glorious wounds. We are healed by those wounds, but only if we behave as God's people. Faith without works is nothing but a "clanging gong". When faith combines with confession of sins (a particularly humbling work of faith) a glorious symphony of Faith rises to Heaven.

This is a post with Catholic Blog Day.

Update: I wrote this before I went to Mass, and the priest also emphasized that Lent is a joyous time. I thought that was great!

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Smiling already at 2 weeks
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And two shall become one...

And two shall become one...
In 2006, Andrew & I became one before God and family! Shortly thereafter we became 3 with the birth of Simon in 2008... Then 4 with the addition of Rachel in 2009!

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